As Uganda celebrates 50 years of independence, Kawowo Sports’ Ismael Kiyonga reviews the 50 years of soccer in the country and writes about some of the incidents that will forever remain in the hearts of Ugandans. Some left the nation ecstatic, others left the nation befallen while others divided opinion. Without ranking them in a particular order, below are the picks of the 50 years:
Uganda runners up at Nations Cup 1978
It’s the nation’s most revered moment in the history of the game. The Cranes didn’t only qualify for Afcon but also ended up in the finals where they lost to hosts Ghana 2-0 in Kumasi. The team composed of the likes of Jimmy Kirunda, Denis Obua (RIP), Polly Ouma, Paul Ssali, Timothy Ayiekho, Sam Musenze and Phillip Omondi among others. As a consolation, Omondi finished the tournament as golden boot winner with four goals. Whether it was a curse or not for the nation, Uganda has never qualified for Africa’s biggest soccer bonanza since then.
Magid Musisi professional career
He was the first soccer player to play professional football in Europe when he joined French giants Stade Rennes in 1992. The stocky striker nick named “Tyson” because of his power, Musisi went on to play in Turkey and latter in Vietnam before he ended his career. In Uganda, his exploits for SC Villa will forever be remembered. His legacy still remains intact.
Andrew Fimbo Mukasa’s 45 League goals in 1999
Forget the temperament and his career ending illness, Mukasa holds the record for the most number of league goals in a single season. In 1999, the lanky striker nicknamed Fimbo by the fans scored a staggering 45 goals in less than 36 games for SC Villa. In breaking Jimmy Kirunda’s record of 32 goals, Mukasa set a record that still lives to date.
Ali Tomusange exploits at 2002 World Cup
He holds the record for being the only Uganda match official to ever officiate at the World’s greatest soccer bonanza. The assistant referee had four games including the controversial quarter final match between hosts South Korea and current World Cup Champions Spain. He is most remembered for disallowing Fernando Morientes’ goal that appeared legitimate and the hosts eliminated Fernando Hierro captained side on spot kicks.
Adam Ssemugabi penalty miss against Nigeria in 1993
Uganda needed just a win to make it to the AFCON 94’ edition. Following endless attacks on the visitors’ goal at Nakivubo War Memorial stadium, the Cranes were awarded a penalty after a foul on Robert Aloro. It was the beginning of jubilations for the capacity crowd that filled the stadium given that Uganda had many trusted penalty takers on the pitch in George Ssemwogerere, Magid Musisi and Adam Ssemugabi among others. As fate would have it, Ssemugabi was given the responsibility to take it since he possessed the hardest shot but unfortunately, he missed it and the rest is history.
Hassan Mubiru’s brace versus Algeria in 1998
In the absence of the experienced Magid Musisi, a young forward in the name of Hassan Mubiru was entrusted with a huge task of leading the line against the North Africa Desert Warriors at Nakivubo. Guess what? The young striker rewarded the national team with a brace to mark a historical debut. Though the Cranes never succeeded in the campaign, a new star in Hassan Mubiru was born.
Uganda 5-0 Rwanda in 1998
There is nothing as sweet as victory over an arch rival in a derby. In 1998, Uganda Cranes humiliated neighbours Rwanda’s Amavubi Stars with a 5-0 score line at Nakivubo. The late Magid Musisi was the chief tormentor of the visitors after he bagged a hat trick. It is a result that will forever be remembered.
Uganda 0-1 Rwanda: Abubaker Tabula’s moment of madness
Who will ever forget this day? Forget the 1998 5-0 massacre by the Cranes; this was a different Amavubi star. It all started when current Proline FC left back Abubaker Tabula smelt a rat and felt Rwanda custodian Muhammad Moshi was using “juju” to stop the hosts from breaching his goal. In an attempt to pick what he called juju from Moshi’s territory, Rwanda’s players attacked him and tore his jersey. Parity was later restored but the visitors through Jimmy Gatete bagged the only goal that decided the match to ensure Uganda’s continental jinx continued.
SC Villa 22-0 Akol FC in 2004
The year was 2004; arch rivals Express FC and SC Villa were in the fight for the league title. With few games to the end of the season, the two sides were tied on points with the Wankulukuku side leading on goal difference. In the penultimate stages, the Jogoos had to play Akol FC one of the weakest teams in the league then and a massacre was expected. Sensing danger, it’s alleged that Express FC chairman Godfrey Kirumira paid Akol players not to honour their match against SC Villa as the Jogoos would receive just three points and two goals as per the law. This fell in the ears of the blues’ hierarchy led by Omar Mandela and immediately ensured that Akol honoured its match and it’s alleged that he paid off the junior players of the side who he transported to Namboole. Only nine Akol players took to the field and against a star studded Villa side, they swallowed 22 goals. This led to a probe into the matter though SC Villa finally won the title despite the cancellation of the result. However, the Villa Park side has never lifted any other league title since then.
Express FC golden generation 1995 – 96
To date, it remains the most talented side in the history of Express FC. The side had the likes of Fred Tamale, George Ssemwogerere, Arinaitwe, Robert Aloro, Joseph Mutyaba and Phillip Obwiny among others. After winning everything on the domestic scene, the side came closer to conquering the continent but was stopped by Mark Fish inspired Orlando Pirates in the semi-finals of the Caf Cup.
David Obua’s moment of madness in 2011
While playing against Guinea Bissau in the 2012 Afcon qualifying campaign at Mandela Stadium Namboole, Bobby Williamson opted to take off Obua who was having a poor game by his standard. This didn’t go well with the “king” as nicknamed by fans and he decided to head straight to the changing rooms. On his way, he removed the jersey and threw it down in frustration calling for abuses from fans. He apologised the following day and when asked why he was frustrated on being substituted, he said that he wanted to score a goal and dedicate it to Ibra Ssekagya’s mum who had passed away a few days ago.
SC Villa Cecafa win without conceding a goal in 2005
The Villa Park side set the record for being the only side ever to win a Cecafa club championship trophy without conceding a goal. Andrew Mwesigwa skippered side also became the first Ugandan club to win the tournament away from home. Denis Onyango’s heroics goal earned him a move to St. George of Ethiopia before he crossed to the South African PSL where still plays at the moment.
Hassan Mubiru’s transfer from SC Villa to Express FC in 2000
It was shocking news to SC Villa diehards when their talisman Hassan Mubiru crossed to rivals Express FC. The move earned Mubiru the nickname “Figo” in reference to Portugal legend Luis Figo who had shockingly joined Real Madrid from Barcelona. To date, Mubiru remains the most hated played among Villa fans and sores have never forgiven him since that move.
Uganda Kobs show at All Africa Games 1999
It was exactly Uganda’s golden generation after the class of 1978. The U-23 side didn’t only qualify for AAG in South Africa but finished fourth at the end of the tournament. The side had the likes of Andy Lule (captain), Ibrahim Ssekagya, Andrew Mukasa, Hassan Mubiru, Jamil Kyambadde, Arthur Byansiima, Aggrey Bigala, Morley Byekwaso, Geoffrey Bukohore, and Sam Kawalya among others. The Leo Adraa coached boys were eliminated by Cameroun in the semi-finals before losing to hosts South Africa in the third place play-off.
Uganda 0-0 Kenya in 2011
It was Uganda’s best opportunity in as many years to break the Afcon jinx but was squandered when Arnold Origi’s heroics in the Harambe Stars goalensured the two sides settled for a barren draw. Uganda failed again as it just needed a win to make it. However, the eve of the match was the beginning of everything talisman David Obua was sent packing from the camp by Fufa supremo Lawrence Mulindwa for alleged indiscipline.
Fufa Super League Vs Uganda Super League
For the first time in fifty years, we have seen two national soccer leagues being played in the country. The club organised Bell and Supersport organised USL and the Caf/Fifa sanctioned FSL. Amazingly, the same clubs play in either league.
Mu-Mu attacking combo
It remains the best and most feared attacking combination ever in the history of Ugandan football. Mu-Mu which stands for Mubiru – Mukasa scored a staggering 72 league goals between them in 1999 with the former finishing top scorer with 45 goals while playing at SC Villa. Express FC chairman later lured the duo to Wankulukuku but it never materialised as Mukasa was hit by illness that ruined his career to date.
Others are Charles Masembe’s exploits at Afcon 98’, Uganda’s 6-0 loss to Tunisia, Denis Obua’s imprisonment for poor financial management at Fufa, the endless court battles between the current Fufa regime and SOS among others.
What are your soccer memories in the last 50 years?
Email: Ismael@kawowo.com Twitter:@ismaelkiyonga